'Link's Awakening,' 'Luigi's Mansion 3': Hands-On With Nintendo's Remaining 2019 Slate

Zelda: Link's Awakening - Luigi's Mansion 3- Split - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Nintendo
The Japanese gaming giant is heading into the latter half of the year with a full roster of anticipated games.

Whether you're still hacking away at Fire Emblem: Three Houses or booting up Astral Chain for the first time, Nintendo has once again left an impressive mark on the gaming landscape in 2019.

Based on the five upcoming Switch games that were available to play at PAX West in Seattle last weekend, it's clear Nintendo is fit to see through the end of the year with a lively lineup. From a remake of a classic Zelda title to paranormal ghost-hunting as the world's second-most famous plumber, the latter half of 2019 is looking very solid for the Japanese gaming giant. 

Here's how the company's upcoming slate handles.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Sept. 20)
Anything But a Snore

It's shiny, it's dioramic and it's just as challenging as it was over 25 years ago. Unlike the E3 2019 demo which started you off in the first moments of the game, the new gameplay showcased at PAX West dropped us right at the start of the third dungeon: the cleverly designed Key Cavern. Doors everywhere are barred with locks and keys and are found much more rapidly over standard levels. Most puzzles in each room grant you a key and the dungeon's overarching puzzle acts like a maze as you unlock rooms and make a path towards the boss.

One thing is very clear: This particular remake, despite getting a complete graphical overhaul, stays very faithful to the original. The demo ended with a pretty recreation of the Slime Eye boss. The fight plays out the same, but the added reflective shine of the goo and the animated eyes of the foe reminds why a beat-by-beat recreation offers a lot of benefits.

The original Game Boy version of Link's Awakening was challenging, well designed and had a surprising amount of heart. From the bits shown off so far, the remake brings all that back but it doesn't present a chance to find new secrets, new hidden rooms or enemies designed just for the Switch version. 

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (Sept. 27)
Blast to the Past

If you've played any version of Dragon Quest XI, you'll know what you're getting into with the definitive edition. It's an RPG, a Japanese one at that, so you'll find yourself running around fields battling monsters with a party of four, casting spells and earning XP. What might not be so obvious is a new mode that allows you to play the entire game in a classic 2D style. Everything is redone to fit the retro feel including the sprite work for all the characters and worlds along with the music that can be switched from symphonic to synthesized at any moment. It's a very cool addition that's more than a simple feature. Replaying the entire adventure in this retro style is absolutely possible and there are even gameplay changes such as randomly generated battle encounters that offer additional differences.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition (Oct. 15)
It Runs!

Yes, there are moments that look muddy and it'll take some time to get used to the extra blur, but The Witcher 3, one of the most extensive and detailed open-world games out there, is not only running on a portable device but doing so efficiently. There were no drops in frame and everything stayed consistent throughout the PAX demo. Once you got used to the lowered resolution, there's nothing left to worry about. 

For a quick test, I took Geralt to the busiest town on the map, White Orchard. The result? Ten homes, a dozen villagers and, most importantly, no slowdown.

Luigi's Mansion 3 (Oct. 31)
Wicked Woods

I got deeply stuck in the weeds during my time with Luigi's Mansion 3. The demo was a new one, featuring a floor of the haunted hotel infested with devilish trees, enchanted flowers and vines that crushed walls and opened up new paths. 

The section, which during a normal play-through would take about 10 or 15 minutes to complete, was a 30-minute ordeal during the demo. This wasn't because I couldn't figure out what to do, but rather that each room offers so many small tricks and hidden treasures to discover that it's hard to pass through a room without checking every nook and cranny. One such bedroom, for example, hid a secret gem above the bed, an invisible painting holding gold bars on the left wall behind some vines, a drain pipe for Goo-igi to slip through and dozens of odds and ends to suck up and spit cash out. There was even a room with a chainsaw you could activate to slice through every bit of furniture therein.

Luigi's Mansion 3 has a stunning amount of detail, and while Nintendo hasn't revealed how many total floors are featured in its haunted hotel just yet, there is little worry that the other locales won't live up to the standard set by the PAX demo.

Pokemon Sword and Shield (Nov. 15)
A Familiar Experience

For PAX West, Nintendo chose to keep the same demo it used during E3 2019. Those following updates and announcements for the eighth generation of Pokemon games will know of both the excitement for the new and adorable pocket monsters and also the vocal criticism latched onto Pokemon Sword and Shield for a few odd gameplay choices. 

For those unfamiliar with the demo, the section playable at 2019's E3 and PAX events focused on a water gym in which you battle against three trainers and a gym leader. A series of paths and valves attached to corresponding water geysers helped give the gym some flavor, but the puzzle isn't all that challenging and seemed a bit more like a chore. The player's arsenal of Pokemon featured all three starters, while rivals cast out several recently-revealed monsters.